Are the Steelers just getting started making roster cuts?
The only thing particularly surprising about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster cuts yesterday was the timing. Not even 24 hours after the Super Bowl, they released three veteran players who have faced significant scrutiny. Two of the three lost their jobs. The other got special mention from head coach Mike Tomlin being needing to get better.
In the final tally, QB Mitch Trubisky, T Chukwuma Okorafor, and P Pressley Harvin III are no longer part of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization after yesterday’s cuts. Okorafor has ample experience as a starting right tackle. Trubisky has been both a starter and a backup. Harvin has three years of starting experience.
With the exception of Harvin, the other moves are based at least partly on salary cap considerations. Trubisky and Okorafor were both on the books for millions more than you want to pay a backup player. The decision to release Harvin appears to have been based exclusively on performance evaluation.
But these releases and their timing beg the question: is this it or are there more to come? Are these the three players regarding whom they determined a working relationship was unsalvageable? There are other significant candidates for release, but perhaps they feel they can work out other arrangements.
C Mason Cole is one. He regressed in his second season with the Steelers, but they really have no other viable options at the moment. They can find one, but will they hold onto Cole at least until they do? He is due $5 million, including a $1.5 million March roster bonus, which is pricy for a backup.
Another name is WR Allen Robinson II. He is due $10 million in 2024, all base salary, but his production doesn’t justify that. His options may be dwindling, though, so he could be amenable to some alteration of his compensation. He agreed to void a $5 million roster bonus due in 2024 at the time of last year’s trade, so essentially, he already took one pay cut. And how good could he feel about making $10 million on the open market?
We can also talk about players like Larry Ogunjobi, who is owed nearly $10 million this year and $7 million next year. But he’s another player who may lack a robust market value relative to recent performance. While they may be cut candidates, perhaps the Steelers can find a way to keep them for cheaper.
The Steelers’ 2023 season has been put out of its misery, ending as so many have before in recent years: a disappointing, blowout playoff loss. The only change-up lately is when they miss the playoffs altogether. But with the Buffalo Bills stamping them out in the Wildcard Round, they have another long offseason ahead.
The biggest question hanging over the team is the quarterback question. Is Kenny Pickett the guy? Will he get another season’s reprieve without a serious challenge? How will the team address the depth chart? Do they re-sign Mason Rudolph, one of few significant unrestricted free agents?
The Steelers are swirling with more questions this offseason than usual, frankly, though the major free agent list is less substantial than usual. It’s just a matter of…what happens next? Where do they go from here? How do they find the way forward?